Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide

Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide

Created by Laura Bates, professor of English at Indiana State University.

About the theme

The sexualized cyberbullying of teen girls, gun violence, LGBTQ suicides, young people’s shrinking job prospects: recent conversations about topics like these have reignited longstanding concerns about the state of teenagers today and the standards to which society holds them.

The three books in this series follow the stories of individual youth to explore some of the underlying systems, norms, and emotions that can lead to teens hurting themselves and others. Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2006) and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why (2007) each offer nuanced takes on anxiety, social isolation, and suicidal thoughts in contemporary America, while William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet (1597; reimagined in graphic novel form in 2008) demonstrates how long people have been concerned about teen violence and suicide. In each case, the protagonists’ feelings and choices are shaped by the actions of others in their social circles and other factors outside their control. Using humor, introspection, and drama, these works ask: How is it that communities and interpersonal relationships are both essential to human self-knowledge, happiness, and ability to function, and can also cause such anxiety, danger, and even self-harm? Continue reading about this theme.

Reading List

  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  • Romeo and Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels), illustrated by Matt Weigle

Programming Materials

Promotional Materials